This review contains spoilers.
It seems that no good deed goes unpunished in the world of Preacher. Throughout the series, we’ve seen multiple characters try to do something good, only to have it backfire on them in spectacular fashion. Most prominent have been the various uses of The Voice by Jesse. Every time he asks someone to do something nice, like when he told Fiore to find peace, it ends up tragic. When he spares the life of someone who he might have otherwise killed, that positive gesture will only last so long before, for example, the Saint of Killers shows up and starts gunning down an entire house full of thugs, shooting and maiming everyone who stands between him and his single-minded pursuit of Jesse Custer.
As Jesse found out last week, Tulip’s married. Jesse, predictably, didn’t take it well. He’s got a violent temper that he struggles with, and that’s been a continual point throughout the series. Jesse tries, he snaps, and bad things happen. (See also, Eugene banished to Hell.) Even though Jesse did the right thing eventually, it doesn’t have a happy ending, much like his previous attempt to go straight with Tulip at his side.
Dallas is essentially just the story of how Jesse and Tulip fell apart in the wake of Dallas, and how Tulip disappeared from Viktor’s life once the traitorous Carlos was discovered. Jesse and Tulip attempt to go straight, get legitimate jobs, and try to have a baby, and it works for about three weeks. Jesse spends most of his time fighting against his own nature, trying to be the good person that he thinks he can be. Tulip makes an attempt, but she’s truer to her nature. She’s a criminal, and she’s not ashamed of being a criminal. Tulip knows who she is and what she is, and she’s unable to live Jesse’s life, as much as she loves him.
I have to give a lot of credit to Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper for carrying this episode. They have to play the current Jesse and Tulip, and Jesse and Tulip in the wake of Dallas. In both cases, they’re trying to heal emotional wounds, be they fresh or old. Their argument in front of stoner friend Reggie—and Jesse’s outburst at Reggie because he can’t punch Tulip—is very uncomfortable to watch. Philip Buiser, credited with the script this week, has created a very natural-feeling argument, and Cooper especially is able to perform his tasks well. Be it a blank expression while dragging Viktor to his torture chamber (I really loved the tracking shot of this one from director Michael Morris; it’s a Hitchcock via Peter Jackson type of shot) or a faux-sweetness when he knows something Tulip’s been keeping from him, he knows how to make it work. You can tell immediately when Jesse greets Tulip that he knows something, and that he’s furious, but he lightens it just enough that Tulip goes along with it, setting his emotional trap for her.
It’s interesting to see that, even back then, Jesse and Tulip had a third wheel. Reggie is gone, and Cas has taken his place, but for whatever reason, Jesse and Tulip need to have a third person in their orbit. The scene where Cas and Jesse have a conversation about two different things is another surprisingly uncomfortable bit of television, but in a funnier way than Jesse and Tulip’s argument in front of Reggie.
The conversation functions as something of an out for the building tension between the three. Cas feels like Jesse knows that he slept with Tulip, Jesse still doesn’t know, and Tulip is kind of caught between the two still. For the moment, it diffuses that growing lie, but it will come back eventually, and it will land like a bomb strike when it does. It’s still a trap, but it’s a different sort of trap, and it’s going to change the feel of the triumvirate’s relationship without reducing the complications. This may be something that pays off later this season, or if it’s something that will pay off a couple of seasons from now when Preacher is entering its end game.
No matter when it comes back (and it will), I have to give Preacher credit for handling its two biggest its three biggest stumbling blocks. Cas thinks he’s confessed to Jesse about sleeping with Tulip. Jesse can’t use the Voice whenever he wants, because it draws the Saint of Killers. The Saint is still tracking Jesse, but when he doesn’t use Genesis, it’s not as easy for him as it would be if he went around ordering people to do everything.
Jesse still has his weapon, but he’s going to have to be very careful about how and when he uses it. That’s assuming that Jesse is able to successfully avoid the Saint, now that he’s got someone guiding him right to Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy’s borrowed apartment in the French Quarter. They’ll need to pull together to get past that threat; separately they’re helpless to stop the Saint. Even together, they might be helpless to stop him, but hopefully the dysfunction of the past can be used to forge stronger bonds in the future.